A Main­te­nance-Free Log Home

Is that re­ally pos­si­ble? With a lit­tle fore­thought and plan­ning, you can achieve a log home that’s easy to care for and won­der­ful to live in. by Paul Pee­bles

Log Home Living - - CONTENTS -

Is that re­ally pos­si­ble? With plan­ning, ex­perts say you can achieve a log home that’s easy to care for and won­der­ful to live in.

Are you one of those peo­ple who are think­ing about build­ing a log home be­cause you like the way they look and feel, buy have heard that they’re a lot of work to main­tain? You’re not alone. Since our lives have be­come so fast paced, with ev­ery mo­ment of ev­ery day ac­counted for, there’s lit­tle time left to spend on home main­te­nance. Be­sides that, who wants to work hard on their house? You want to en­joy the log home life, right? Well, you can build a won­der­ful log home with all the charm, char­ac­ter and warmth, but lit­tle or no main­te­nance.

Ok, let’s be­gin with the truth. There is no such thing as a main­te­nance-free any­thing when it comes to hous­ing. Any house, no mat­ter if it’s log, tim­ber, con­crete or stick frame, re­quires some level of main­te­nance to keep it look­ing and per­form­ing its best. How­ever, with a few tricks and tweaks, and proper use of the new ma­te­ri­als on the mar­ket, you can build and en­joy a beau­ti­ful log home that re­quires so lit­tle up­keep, it will feel like it’s main­te­nance free. In fact, over time, I have needed to do more main­te­nance on my brick home in Nashville than I have on my log home in the coun­try, but to re­in­force my own ex­pe­ri­ence, I have turned to some of the ex­perts in the industry for their in­sight about how to build a durable log home.


If build­ing a low/no-main­te­nance log home is pos­si­ble, then why have some log home own­ers com­plained about their log home to-do lists?

As a wood stain-and-sealant pro­fes­sional, I have vis­ited hun­dreds of log homes in my ca­reer. I have seen 150-year-old struc­tures in won­der­ful con­di­tion and 10-year-old houses that need a lot of work. What is the dif­fer-

ence? The most important as­pect is sim­ply de­sign.

Wood is a nat­u­ral and beau­ti­ful ma­te­rial, but its in­nate ten­dency is to re­turn to the earth from which it came the mo­ment it “dies.” So when we fell trees to use in log homes, we’re go­ing against the grain, so to speak, be­cause we seek to stop this cy­cle in its tracks. With proper de­sign, wood walls and other ar­chi­tec­tural as­pects of the home can be pro­tected. Deep roof over­hangs and porches will shield the logs from rain, and proper sit­ing to avoid the af­ter­noon sun, com­bined with ma­ture trees that will fil­ter the UV rays, can pro­tect your home from the harm­ful ef­fects of Mother Na­ture.

The fact is that wood that’s kept dry, is prop­erly fin­ished from the onset and is pro­tected from the sun can last many years with no main­te­nance.

My log home in Ten­nessee is 24 years old and I have re-stained one side of it in that time — so I know it can be done, and one of the sim­plest (and most at­trac­tive) ways to ac­com­plish this is with a porch.

Sam Sat­ter­white of Sat­ter­white Log Homes told me, “Son, we build our homes in Texas where if it’s not rain­ing, the sun is beat­ing down; and if the sun isn’t out, it might be blow­ing a cold blue norther in. I wouldn’t build a house here with­out a porch all the way around it – or at least on three sides.”


The sec­ond as­pect to build­ing a main­te­nance-free log home is to in­cor­po­rate new, man­made ma­te­ri­als and use them along­side your logs. They look like wood, but they need less main­te­nance.

Why would you want to put “fake” wood next to the real thing? The de­sign of many log homes ne­ces­si­tates that some fea­tures be ex­posed to the el­e­ments. Dormers, for in­stance, are above the roofline and are un­shielded against the sun and rain. There are many sub­sti­tutes that can be used to keep the rus­tic look of logs, but with­out the wood. Zach Parme­ter of Wis­con­sin-based Golden Ea­gle Log Homes has sev­eral good ideas about how to use these newer ma­te­ri­als.

“You can elim­i­nate the main­te­nance of the hard-to-reach ar­eas of your home. We like to do the gable ends in a main­te­nance-free prod­uct such as vinyl shakes, cor­ru­gated or flat-panel weath­ered steel. All these op­tions look great and never need paint­ing or stain­ing. Plus, there are many col­ors and va­ri­eties to choose from,” Zach says. This is a great way to elim­i­nate main­te­nance not only the most vul­ner­a­ble parts of the home, but also the most ex­pen­sive be­cause these chal­leng­ing ar­eas cost more to care for.

“Main­te­nance-free gen­uine or cul­tured stone is an­other way to re­duce ex­te­rior main­te­nance and still main­tain a rus­tic look,” ac­cord­ing to Zach. “We of­ten change wooden deck floors to stamped con­crete or com­pos­ite plank­ing, as these ma­te­ri­als don’t re­quire main­te­nance.”

Zach also rec­om­mends win­dows that are clad in alu­minum or poly­mer to re­duce or elim­i­nate their up­keep.


One of the most com­mon mis­takes I have seen is when builders place wooden post bases in di­rect con­tact with a porch deck or ma­sonry. Each time the deck or ma­sonry be­comes wet, wa­ter will soak into the ends of the posts. Cap­il­lary at­trac­tion then draws the mois­ture into and up the posts, which causes rot and re­sults in ex­pen­sive re­pairs. The sim­ple use of a plinth made of a ma­te­rial that won’t rot will pre­vent this prob­lem for­ever.

An­other big and dan­ger­ous mis­step is wood handrails on decks. Handrails are there for one pur­pose — to pro­tect you, your fam­ily and your guests from fall­ing. Handrails that aren’t cov­ered by a roof should be built from rot-proof or man­made ma­te­ri­als. Wood that’s ex- posed to the el­e­ments will even­tu­ally need main­te­nance and should not be used if you wish to build a home with zero — or close to zero — up­keep.

I hope these tips will help to re­lax your fears about log home main­te­nance. My broth­ers and I built our fam­ily’s log re­treat our­selves more than two decades ago, and we have never re­gret­ted it for a sec­ond. We have watched our par­ents grow older there, and our chil­dren have grown up there. The ex­pe­ri­ences and won­der­ful times we’ve had in that house are ir­re­place­able. They are an in­te­gral part of our fam­ily’s her­itage. I sin­cerely hope you can ex­pe­ri­ence that the same feel­ing one day. Own­ing a log home is a unique and re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“We build our homes in Texas where if it’s not rain­ing, the sun is beat­ing down; and if the sun isn’t out, it might be blow­ing a cold blue norther in. I wouldn’t build a house here with­out a porch all the way around it — or at least on three sides.” — Sam Sat­ter­white of Sat­ter­white Log Homes

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